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Literature / Count to the Eschaton
aka: Count To A Trillion

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The Count to the Eschaton series is a six-volume Hard Science Fiction/Space Opera series by John C. Wright.

Menelaus Ilation "Meany" Montrose, a Texas-born gunslinger, lawyer, mathematician, and astronaut, goes insane after injecting himself with an IQ-increasing Super Serum, and is cryosuspended during the voyage to the Monument. He wakes to a Bad Future. In little more than 8,000 years, the alien beings who set up the Monument as bait to test younger civilizations' starfaring progress, will arrive and enslave the Earth's population. Resisted by the remaining members of the crew—particularly his former best friend, Ximen "Blackie" Del Azarchel—Menelaus decides to spend the intervening millennia preparing humankind to resist.


Books in the series:

  • Count to a Trillion
  • The Hermetic Millennia
  • The Judge of Ages
  • The Architect of Aeons
  • The Vindication of Man
  • Count to Infinity

Tropes featured:

  • Abusing the Kardashev Scale for Fun and Profit: The series divides scales into amount of processing power instead of just energy. Thus a late stage sophos-form planetoid and planet, such as Moon and Earth are at the mid range of KI (Potentate). Fully sophos-formed Jupiter is the upper end of KI (Power). Dyson Sphere is on the mid range KII (Principality) - Ain from The Vindication of Man. Hyades Cluster is a stellar clusters of thinking matters and upper end of KII (Domination). M3 Globular Cluster in Canes Venatici Globular Cluster (Authority) is in KII+. KIII singular galaxy sophant (Throne) - The Maiden of Andromeda Galaxy. KIII+ Galaxy Cluster Group (Cherubim) - Virgo Cluster. KIV Supercluster (Seraphim) - Corona Borealis. The KV artifact Eschaton Directional Engine - multiple Seraphim builds it to determine the final fate of the universe, Heat Death or Big Rip.
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  • Abdicate the Throne: A theoretical solution to their problems, at one point.
  • Above Good and Evil: We don't have to teach post humans to be good while we make them.
  • Abusive Precursors: The aliens have yet to show up, but have made their intentions clear.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Some of the Chimera's weapons have to become this, because they have lost the art of changing the bloodlocks on them.
  • Arc Words: "Count to a trillion" is one, the length of time it will take for Rania's starship to return to earth; as is, possibly, "asymptote.", "Is my time yet come? Is my bride yet here?"
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Menelaus watches this trope in action. He doesn't approve.
  • Big Dumb Object: In the final novel Count to Infinity, our hero found the 'Eschaton Directional Engine' build by multiple ancient Super Clusters Intelligence. It's Wright's version of Real Life "Great Attractor". The purpose of Eschaton Directional Engine is to determine the fate of the universe of either Heat Death or Big Rip. It will either bend spacetime positively, into a sphere, or negatively, into a potato-chip shape.
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  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Just before meeting princess Rania in volume one, Menelaus attends a new year celebration where the attendants shout in Dutch: "De God redt de koningin!" While gramatically correct, this is something a native speaker of Dutch would never say. It's obviously intended to be a translation of "God save the queen", but what it actually means is "The God is rescuing the queen" (As in, God is rescuing the queen right now). Also, "de" is a definite article, which just like in English one would omit when referring to the monotheistic god.
  • Brain in a Jar: Explicitly shows up in Architect Of Aeons. Menelaus is stuck on the sidelines, of a Duel to the Death that he set up, where one of the participants is a "whale-sized" Transhuman (and the other uses Jupiter as a computer's CPU). Due to events, the Transhuman ends up dying in a messy way, while dropping a 'trinket': Menelaus' original brain kept for sentimental reasons.
  • Broad Strokes: Some cultures' versions of past history are... strange. The Witches, for example, believe that C. S. Lewis and Arthur C. Clarke explored the Louisiana Territory in 1492....
  • Buxom Is Better: The Nymphs hold to this. And bio-engineer themselves accordingly.
  • The Captain: Princess Rania also commands the world's only (functioning) starship.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The princess is deeply involved in her people's welfare.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Justified. Blackie del Azarchel suppressed all religions other than Catholicism because he himself was culturally Catholic; and Menelaus later makes use of the institution because it is The Constant.
  • Cold Sleep, Cold Future: It gets colder each time Menelaus wakes up.
  • Cliffhanger: The ending of Count to a Trillion, and The Hermetic Millennia
  • Commonality Connection: Illiance calls on this with Menelaus, as scholars.
  • Corrupt Church: One thing that happened while he slept.
  • Crapsaccharine World
  • Cry into Chest: Rania possibly invokes this with Menelaus.
  • Culture Clash: competing cultures from different eras, all woken at once result in much of this. Most amusingly done when the relatively-prudish Blue Men interview Oenoe.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Coming out of a cryogenic chamber.
  • Defector from Decadence: The Nymph Shieldmaidens; Oenoe in particular.
  • Dirty Business: Dealing with blighters.
  • Doctor's Orders: Menelaus can talk casually with the effective ruler of Earth. When he must be examined by a doctor, he finds it much harder to assert himself.
  • Dreaming the Truth: Menelaus. Also Mickey.
  • Driven to Suicide: Captain Grimaldi. At least according to Blackie.
  • Duel to the Death: Menelaus's occupation, as junior member of a law firm.
  • Due to the Dead: Menelaus's only objection to the absence of religion.
  • Easy Amnesia: the Nymphs' Nepenthe.
  • Empathic Weapon: Some last from the days of the Sylphs, though people don't understand them.
  • Endless Winter: In Count To A Trillion, Menelaus's first spring is when he is six. The younger characters regard it as this. The older ones hush them: the Japanese created it deliberately, in order to fight a disease, and if they hadn't, mankind might have gone extinct.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: The clothes of the Hermetists use symbolic references to underscore their power.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Used to soothe the conscience, by some characters.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Nymphs, throughout their culture; those who do not like it are given a chance to cryogenic sleep to a more pleasing time to them.
    • Parental Incest: A nymph casually mentions that they expect a man's first sexual partner to have been his mother. The term for "father" also implies a sexual relationship.
    • Brother–Sister Incest: In their language, the word "brother" also means "homosexual incestous partner."
  • First-Name Basis: Menelaus insists on it
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Menelaus
  • Forced to Watch: For really illegal stuff.
  • Four-Part Hexalogy: The series was supposed to be four books, however it grew to six. For example The Judge of Ages continues straight from where The Hermetic Millennia ended, because at first the two books were supposed to be one but they were split in two because of the size.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Prince Ranier
  • Genre Savvy: Menelaus has read SF. He notices certain lacks.
  • Government Drug Enforcement: Nymph culture made heavy use of drugs, widely accepted, but the Nymph Queens enforced it when necessary.
  • Grey Goo: Golden goo, to inaugurate a Golden Age.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Blackie
  • The Gunslinger
  • Honor Before Reason: There are Nymphs who do not like a life of total, if heavily drugged, hedonism.
  • How Many Fingers?: The Medic tries this.
  • Human Popsicle: Everyone in the tombs.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Lady Ivinia talks of her silence, her obedience, and her gentleness while ordering men about in a long speech, commanding them to fight war and win or commit suicide.
  • I Gave My Word: Why Menelaus survived.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Rada Lwa's justification of his attempted murder of Menelaus. Dropping a satellite on Menelaus was a necessary act because it was the outcome of deorbiting the satellite, which was necessary to stop Menelaus' military control over the world. It was a necessary act, therefore not murder. On the other hand, Menelaus killing De Ulloa was murder because Menelaus actively attempted to cause harm.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Oenoe agreed to something to please her beloved, which is why she is in the Tombs
  • I Will Wait for You: Menelaus's motive in the second book.
  • King in the Mountain: These legends congregate about the Tomb.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The defenders of the Tombs.
  • Living Lie Detector: Soorm claims to be this.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Nymphs wear it at least waist long.
  • Love at First Sight: Nymphs can induce this, biochemically.
  • Love Triangle: Blackie, Rania, and Menelaus.
  • Mad Scientist: Menelaus tries a very hypothetical experiment out on himself. See Gone Horribly Right.
  • Magic from Technology: The Witches solemnly scorn the mere material husk as not being the essential, let alone the only, part.
  • Meaningful Echo
  • The Medic: Menelaus can argue with the Master of the World, but not the doctor
  • Men Don't Cry: His mother insists on this.
  • The Mentor: Among the Blue Men, a formal relationship
  • The Mutiny: Occurs when Menelaus does not remember it, but is crucial to the plot
  • Murder by Cremation: What really happened to Prince Ranier.
  • Named Weapons: The Chimarae practice this.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Larz claims Menelaus is not this
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Menelaus's Super Serum. He gets called on this by Blackie.
  • Not a Game: Menelaus rebukes himself at one point for forgetting this.
  • One Head Taller: Mentally invoked by Menelaus after Princess Rania's growth spurt: "He hated the fact that the top of her head no longer fit nicely under his chin when they hugged... It seemed obscurely unnatural, as if someone had made a mistake when putting the universe together."
  • Ominous Floating Castle: In The Judge of Ages, there is the villain's floating tower which is even described as ominous. It may be the largest one in literature, 165 thousand miles high, and has more surface area than China.
  • Parental Substitute: Soorm finds one in his story.
  • People of Hair Color: Blondies
  • Pet the Dog: Menelaus at one point concludes that another character can like dogs and still be all bad.
  • Princess Classic
  • Private Eye Monologue: Kine Larz' story.
  • The Promise: Menelaus makes one very young.
  • Properly Paranoid: the Tombs' defenses.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Chimera. Lampshaded by one of them, who, hearing of the "battle for Antarctica," asks exactly who was fighting for what down there.
  • Psychic Powers: Menelaus at one point reflects on how superhuman intellects get these in stories.
  • Rags to Royalty: A Genre Savvy character comments on the usage in cheap fiction
  • Raised by Wolves: Menelaus uses this as an analogy
  • Requisite Royal Regalia
  • Rescue Romance: A Genre Savvy character comments on the usage in cheap fiction
  • Reverse Psychology: One character argues with Menelaus as if he wants him to do the opposite.
  • Royal Blood
  • Servant Race: to be genetically engineered.
  • Shout-Out: Too many to list. (What? Never heard of Sir Edward Marlinson??)
  • Single Tear: Oenoe's story induces this.
  • Slave Race: The aliens' plans for us.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Menelaus swings between "aw shucks" Texanisms and ultrafluent Lawyerese or Antiquated Linguistics.
    • An alert reader can detect when Menelaus' mind is fully engaged by a problem, because he forgets to maintain his Texanism affectation.
  • Spring Is Late: Years late.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Lady Ivinia explains that this is her place, not councils of war, so she merely "reminds" the men they have a duty to overcome the foe they face or commit suicide for failure.
  • Superpowered Evil Side
  • Super Serum / Psycho Serum
  • Swans A-Swimming: Rania is repeatedly referred to as a Swan Princess.
  • Tap on the Head: Takes Menelaus out, old style.
  • They Have the Scent!: The dog things invert it — by howling with frustration, they show they don't have the scent.
  • Time Abyss: To quote the author, the story will be followed to "the year Oh-My-Gosh-That's-A-Lot-Of-Zeroes".
  • Title Drop: "Counting to a trillion" is a metaphor in the first two books for something true but outside your ability to handle; also how long it will take Rania to return.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: Sometimes you're victorious when you can't be smart enough, but can be stupid enough.
  • Truly Single Parent: The princess has only a father, though he was not the one to make her.
  • Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain: Menelaus' description is distinctly ungainly; Blackie del Azarchel, on the other hand, is a Dashing Hispanic.
  • "Uh-Oh" Eyes
  • Unreliable Narrator: In The Hermetic Millennia, large sections are first-person accounts by people who are not to be trusted.
  • Visual Novel: Asymptote seems to be this.
  • Wake Up Fighting: Menelaus coldsleeps with loaded pistols in his hands for this purpose. It doesn't help him much in Hermetic Millennia.
  • Wham Line: In The Architect of Aeons (the last chapter), Menelaus ends up viewing the death of a Transhuman body the size of a whale... then it turns out that this is also Menelaus, and out of nostalgia​ this one kept "their" original brain in a jar (that happens to fall next to the viewpoint Menelaus, allowing him to realize this. And... end of book.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: And, indeed, your own electronic copy.
  • White Stallion: Cryogenically frozen for the knights.
  • With Due Respect: Menelaus to the Chimerae — he's posing as a subordinate one.
  • A Year and a Day: How long Soorm had to serve to sleep in the Tombs.
  • You Are Number 6: Crewman Fifty-one.

Alternative Title(s): Count To A Trillion, Hermetic Millennia, The Hermetic Millennia


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